Hurray for the jabbed

I just want to shout out to all the Fonthill and surrounding area residents. I am so proud to be among all of you (us) who are getting our vaccinations.

I check daily on the vaccine website to see how many shots are available and how many are being utilized, and I go “Yes” and pump my fists.

We are all doing our part and basically saying to hell with the protesters who think they’re safe without the shot. There will always be stupids among us and, as my friend says, you can’t fix stupid.

But when they get sick they will be the first to say, give me a shot. Just like the Mennonite lady who got sick a month ago and then all of a sudden she is the biggest advocate of vaccines.

I just wanted to say, Yay us.

J. Vlym
Fonthill

 

Car wash variance discussion all wet

It’s worse than it looks.

At first glance, item 10.2.6 on the Pelham Town Council meeting agenda of June 7, looks benign: a resolution to pass a fence variance. After review of the accompanying documents and paying careful attention to the exchange among councillors and Town officials, I believe that the Town has taken this as an opportunity to state its position on this matter—its legal line in the sand so to speak, a message.

For seven months community residents have written to Town officials and councillors with impact statements and complaints about the noise from the car wash at 151 Highway 20 E., myself included. What I got back was nothing, and what I saw of what other residents got back urged patience and tolerance. Imagine my surprise upon reading the accompanying documents addressing virtually all the issues and questions that I and other residents had been posing. What I heard the Town saying was, “Complaining residents, take note, this is our legal position.” But before I tell you what I believe that is, I would like to describe my general observations about the meeting.

Let me start at the end. Upon completion of the meeting I was distressed about how little the councillors, with the exception of Councillor Olson, knew about the issue, and how willing they were to pass a variance for the erecting of such an enormous structure without an environmental impact study or a permit from the Town. This is not an eight-foot-high privacy fence they were approving here. This structure is made of steel and concrete, 15 feet high and 160 feet long. There were virtually no questions or apparent concerns about how a structure of that size would change the face of this neighbourhood forever, and which may act as a reflector and amplify the noise to the south across Highway 20, directly into the proposed retirement residences. This seemed very shortsighted of council.

It’s disturbing to think that this is the level of thought that goes into Town decisions. I would welcome a sound barrier, which would probably work for us— but probably not work for the retirement residences. There are solutions simpler than altering the landscape, disrupting the airflow, producing water runoff and erosion, sound reflection, and so on, all so that Ms. Levay doesn’t have to quieten her blowers.

It was also interesting to hear that, “both Chief Lymburner and Solicitor Stirton have flagged the noise bylaw as something that needs work and attention and that there are things that need to be fixed in it.” No hint was given about what those things are or what needs work and attention.

How curious it was to hear the Town solicitor say that bylaws are typically passed for the benefit of the general public as a whole and not for the benefit of individual citizens and individual residents. I’m trying to imagine when a barking dog or loud music or whatever would apply to the general public as a whole and not individuals, and why the definition of “point of reception” refers to the premises of a “person.” Sounds pretty individual to me, but, as they say, “Baloney baffles brains,” or something like that.

Although Ms. Levay was not present, and her record of service in Pelham and with Rotary had no apparent bearing on the passing of a variance for a fence, it was obvious that some councillors felt the need to get it on the record.

Councillor Kore pointed out the hell that Ms. Levay went through the previous week, what a great business person she is, and that she should be given credit for trying to solve the problem (short of actually stopping the noise of course). No mention was made of the hell residents have been through for seven months, or their efforts in trying to solve the problem. Then there was a question from Councillor Hildebrandt as to whether this fence will just be another thing the residents won’t be happy with, although he expressed his doubts about how effective it will be based on personal experience with highway sound barriers.

Mayor Junkin repeated CAO Cribbs’ go-to line that the Town is not in the business of putting businesses out of business, as if that is what the Town would be doing in this case—which it wouldn’t be — but perhaps they believe that repeating it often enough will convince some people that it’s the truth, and that if poor Ms. Levay were to shut down her dryers, she would be out on the street.

Chief Lymburner extolled the virtues of the proposed barrier as if it was actually going to be built, saying how professional it will be, and citing the impressive credentials of the proposed contractor. Mayor Junkin quickly jumped in to clarify that Ms. Levay doesn’t have to build it (emphasis his) lest the likely-listening Ms. Levay felt committed in any way. Just to be sure there would be no misunderstanding about Ms. Levay being able to do as she pleased, the Mayor confirmed that point with the Town solicitor. He also ensured everyone that the proposed Great Wall of Pelham, 15 feet high on a five-foot embankment, looming a total of 20 feet over Hurricane Rd —eight feet higher than the Berlin Wall—will just blend in and be barely noticeable.

Solicitor Stirton reassured council that the Town has no legal relationship to protect individuals or groups under the bylaw so no need to worry about risk of harm claims—comforting for anyone who might feel the urge to act in good conscience or put the suffering of seniors over the profits of three car wash people. It was also pointed out that the Town has broad discretion in enforcing bylaws, thus making the bylaws little more than suggestions.

Councillor Wink recommended that the hours of operation for the car wash be modified from 7 AM to 11 PM to 8 AM to 10 PM, forgetting that the time allowed for residential disturbance according to the bylaw is zero. If such a resolution were passed it raises the question of whether that might effectively allow the car wash to legally make noise during that time. If so, that would negate residents’ complaints about non-enforcement. Not the kind of help we’re looking for.

The one, lonely dissenter to the variance was Councillor Olson, who sounded like he was interested in actually solving the problem. He felt that the solution may lie in problem-solving at the basic level. No one seemed to care about that as it appeared that this meeting was just to praise Gail Levay and pass the variance, not to look for solutions.

Now let’s talk about the message. In my opinion the most important part of it is that the Town take the legal position that it does not have to enforce the bylaw and it’s not going to unless we can prove that the Town is acting unreasonably and in bad faith. Town officials know that not only is this a high bar to reach, but that such an action would involve a costly court challenge. Another piece of this is our claim that the known negative health effects of noise create a risk of harm to residents. The Town’s position on this is that in order for Town to be held responsible there must be a special relationship between the Town and that group, which they claim does not exist. Again, a challenge would involve legal gymnastics and court.

So the bottom line message is that the Town is not going to enforce the noise bylaw and they can’t be made to without an expensive court battle. It’s the classic big corporation against the little guy. We’re big and powerful and you’re not. We don’t care about any harm or suffering unless you can prove it in court.

A second part of the message is that Ms. Levay can try to solve the problem, or not, her choice, nothing to do with the Town, and she can build the sound barrier or not, her choice. And remember she should be given credit for trying, even if it doesn’t work and the noise continues, because heaven forbid she should “go through” anything.

So I think that pretty much sums up their message as I hear it. As bad as it is, finally we have an answer. The Town officially is not helping us, and any help we get will have to come by way of Ms. Levay’s goodness and mercy.

Regardless of what side of this dispute you are on, make no mistake about it, this applies to you —you’re the little guy without the means to fight City Hall. You’re not them, you’re us.

Lastly, this dispute has revealed that the Town now wants to amend the noise bylaw. The question is why? Maybe because it favours citizens? Again, that’s you. I suspect the troublesome definition “unwanted sound” will summarily make its way to the dust bin, perhaps along with those pesky high sounding words about “public health, safety, welfare and the peace and quiet of the inhabitants of the Town of Pelham.”

Retirement residence developer take note.

Robert Reinhart
Fonthill

 

Appreciates Crick’s story

Well done, Trent Crick, for sharing your courageous story of growing up gay [A traumatic childhood over, but not forgotten, June 9, p.1]. As a mother of two young boys in 2021, I am committed to accept them in any shape or form they grow into, with unwavering support, and it’s stories like yours which helps me to do this. I would never want them to suffer in the way that you did, trying to keep this all a secret, although I understand that times were very different then.

I’m so sorry you went through this. I’m so glad you found your peaceful path in life, loving yourself and your choices without needing validation. After all that you went through, you’re a true hero. Your experience is so very important for the young kids (or older!) who are struggling to find the strength in their own voices so that they, too, can tell others their stories.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy for your mother when you came out, as being openly gay wasn’t acceptable, as tragic as this was. I’m hoping the only response she receives as a result of your article is pure support! You’ve got at least one family here in Pelham who supports you. As for the Town, hanging the Pride flag, installing the Pride benches, these are all encouraging steps in the right direction to help our residents (and visitors) know that “love is love” and we openly welcome and celebrate this.

Vanessa Atkinson
Fonthill

 

I could have been a tormentor, too

Heartfelt congratulations to Trent Crick for a moving and revealing piece in last week’s Voice. Anyone who read that reminiscence and still objects to such small acknowledgments as rainbow-coloured flags and benches just doesn’t get it and never will. What is so sadly ironic is that so many of those who object do so from the point of view of religions that espouse love and equality and acceptance.

I was not one of those who tormented Trent through his public and high school years, but I could have been. All that I lacked was the opportunity. There is no stronger influence on people growing up into adulthood than peer pressure, and when all your peers demand ridicule at best and hatred at worst of anyone who is or could be a “faggot” or a “queer” you follow their lead. I didn’t even know what “gay” meant when I learned to detest everything about anyone who might be gay. It took me until my late teens to question this rigid belief. Since then, the scales have truly fallen from my eyes and I am now proud to have many close gay friends whose affection and regard I treasure.

I truly want Trent to know that his suffering was not in vain, that his strength and bravery influenced the attitudes of those who grew up with him. I am convinced that many of those who made his life miserable have had the same epiphany that I had and are now both ashamed of their previous attitude and regretful of the stupidity that made them act as they did toward him.

Brian Green
Fenwick

 

Fear of the unknown feeds bullying

The fear of the unknown is no excuse for bullying and harassment. If only the children that tormented, brutalized, demeaned and did their best to destroy Trent Crick had been educated on the subject of sexuality they may have been respectful, friendly, caring and compassionate, but instead they acted in ways to demoralize and affect the life of an innocent boy.

Trent is to be commended for having the courage all these years later to publish his story as to how he was forced to leave our town. Likewise, his mother, who I have known, gave him the strength, courage, support, and above all else the love and encouragement to become his own person. Without it he would have succumbed to the abuse and been unable to share the plight of his young years.

Sexual orientation is not a choice…it is a biological factor.

A few of the most flamboyant, attractive, creative men I’ve encountered through work and life have been gay. They have brought artistry, understanding, comedy into my life, and given me friendship, which I may not otherwise have known. For all of that, I’m grateful.

Coming out is like breathing a breath of fresh air…a sense of freedom…the ability to be the person you are…with personality! The freedom to remove the shackles and live life to the fullest.

Good for Trent and good for his mother! They’ve been there for each other since birth and now, at the age of 50, Trent can let Pelham know how it let him down but that was years ago and times have changed. He has beaten the odds and overcome his obstacles. Just look at him now…a survivor, an adult, a success!

Susan Harwood
Fonthill

 

A postscript

I would like to add something to my recollections of growing up in Fonthill that was published in the Voice last week. I wanted to clarify that not all of my childhood was bad. I was very fortunate to have a supportive family and a few close friends that made my childhood fun and memorable. It was just outside of the home that things were not good. I really wanted to stress that it was so incredibly important to me to feel safe, loved and supported by my family and friends. I don’t think I would have made it without them.

I also wanted to say thank you to everyone that has reached out to my mom and me. We have received nothing but positive feedback. I really appreciate the kind words and support.

Trent Crick
Ottawa

 

Pelham Art Festival says thank you

We are so pleased to let you know that the first Pelham Art Festival Online show was a successful event!

About 60 artists provided unique original fine artwork in a wide variety of mediums and styles. The Youth Art Challenge and Poster Contest submissions provided extra interest to engage future artists.

May 31 marked the end of the official Pelham Art Festival for 2021. Although we are still sorting out statistics, we are so impressed with how customers came from all over Ontario, from as far as BC, and even an international sale was made! It is clear that going forward, this new online platform will continue to be very useful. As with anything new, we have learned from this venture and anticipate introducing new ideas for further online experiences to supplement the next in-person for May 2022.

As in other years, 15 percent of artist sales go toward fundraising efforts to donate to the Pelham Libraries, fine arts scholarships, and to community art endeavours. That said, the first fundraising focus will be for the Pelham Library this year, since we were not able to make a Library donation last year as the 2020 festival needed to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

We want to express sincere appreciation to the artists and to the professional curators. Thank you to all who visited the website.

Thank you to the sponsors and donors who helped to cover expenses and to the Fonthill Rotary for providing prizes for the Youth Watershed Poster entries to go along with the environmental theme for this year. We are thankful for recent news about a grant from the Town of Pelham towards the expense of the new website.

Last but not least, the Pelham Art Festival Committee volunteers have done an incredible job in meeting the challenge of finding a new way of bring the Pelham Art Festival to you when it became clear the Covid restrictions would once again prevent holding the large art show and sale at the Meridian Community Centre this year, and their work is greatly appreciated.

Heidi TeBrake
Chair, Pelham Art Festival

 

New DSBN policy on school naming

The District School Board of Niagara is about to pass policy A-09, which says that, “Community members can refer their concern, share information or make a request to the School Council in question for consideration if they believe that a school in their community should be renamed.”

In other words, we as constituents cannot go to our elected DSBN trustee to voice our concerns about a name, so that the trustee can take this concern to the whole board. One of the responsibilities of a trustee is to bring to the board the concerns of the constituents. In this case, a school council will decide if the concern has “relevance” to their school, and, if so, then take it to the board.

DSBN will take away one basic responsibility from every trustee.

An unelected school council is not an appropriate body to govern such an important decision that will affect current, past, and future students, and also their families and our community.

A school name is extremely important and the whole board, who have the expertise in these matters, needs to see this and the only way is through our elected representative.

If you believe that our elected trustees should be allowed to hear our concerns and then relay them to the board, please email all the trustees at DSBN and let them know. The letters have to go in by this Friday, June 18.

To look up the whole policy, go to DSBN website and search “Report to the Policy Committee Policy A-09.”

Vilma Moretti
Fonthill

 

Open letter to DSBN trustees

Thank you for serving our communities to strive to create an educational system to be proud of. Our precious children deserve no less.

My wife and I reviewed the revised policy A-09. When we read the section on “Initiating a School Renaming” it needs to be changed to include our elected school trustees! I believe this is a legal obligation of the DSBN. Otherwise this is a blatant attack not only on democracy but also our rights to an open and fair process.

An unelected school council is not an appropriate body to govern such an important decision that affects current students, past students, future students and all their families including parents, grandparents, businesses and the community as a whole. A school name is extremely important—you said it yourself in your policies. It can define the whole community by what and who the name represents. Your own naming criteria shouts the importance of this decision, so it only follows that the pinnacle of this decision lies in having the most accountable people included to decide the “relevancy” of the “renaming” in question.

Elected every four years, school board trustees bridge the gap between the community and the school board. Their job is to represent their community by bringing the community’s concerns to the attention of the board and to keep constituents informed of what the board is doing.

Paul Bryant
Fenwick

 

Novavax the future

Canada’s vaccine rollout might accelerate even further. A Maryland-based company called Novavax is close to getting approval from Health Canada. The pharmaceutical giant is hoping to get their Covid-19 vaccine approved by the third quarter. This means that Canada could have a fifth Covid vaccine approved by July. Justin Trudeau has announced that Novavax along with the MRNA vaccines will be manufactured in Canada, but we will depend on the American vaccine plants to ship doses before it is manufactured domestically.

Novavax is a unique vaccine. Unlike the other four vaccines that have been granted emergency authorization Novavax contains a part of the coronavirus itself. Novavax contains a spike protein from the virus and it has shown to be 96 percent effective against the original SARS-CoV-2 virus in its clinical trials. Pfizer and Moderna deliver a genetic code from Covid-19 to train white blood cells to create antibodies to recognize the virus. The AstraZeneca and Jansen Inc. vaccines are being studied further. German researchers have come close to figuring out who is most at risk of developing blood clots from these viral vector serums. One shot of the vaccines almost guarantees no severe illness for healthier individuals. Keep in mind that the vaccine’s protection will take two weeks to become effective. I received a Pfizer shot three weeks ago and the only side-effect that I got was a sore shoulder for one day. A second shot is still important to reduce your chances of catching Covid-19. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second shot.

Other vaccines work differently than the Covid-19 vaccines. The influenza shot uses a dead version of the virus. I find this interesting because the flu vaccine’s effectiveness varies each winter. One dose of the influenza vaccine is never zero percent effective therefore I feel it is important to receive this vaccine every October as it will still reduce your chances of getting severely sick.

It would be nice if scientists would find a vaccine for the common cold. This virus is too hard to cure, but the good news is that the common cold is rarely fatal. Like Covid-19, colds can occur in any month of the year. I will continue to wear two masks and wash my hands as often as possible whenever I’m in crowded indoor public places even after Covid-19 is no longer considered a serious health threat. By doing these measures I won’t likely catch the common cold virus, and I will have added protection against catching influenza, Covid, and its variants.

In conclusion, Canada’s vaccine rollout may pick up more speed soon. The American company Novavax will seek approval from Health Canada for its vaccine. A fifth vaccine will bring this pandemic to an end sooner and we can return to a normal life sooner. Hopefully, Novavax will be approved by July, but only time will tell.

Brendan Young
Fonthill

 

COMMENTARY / OP-ED Tom Purcell

The dying art of conversation

Texting is replacing talking as the preferred form of communication? According to a recent survey by OpenMarket, 75 percent of millennials chose texting over talking when given the choice between being able only to text versus call on their mobile phone.

To be sure, the powerful digital devices almost everyone is carrying around these days have changed the art of human conversation and the way we relate to each other — and not for the better.

When I was in high school many years ago, my mother encouraged me to take a typewriting course, thinking it would benefit me in my working life — and, boy, did it benefit me as a writer!

I don’t know how many words I can type per minute, but I’m able to put my thoughts onto the screen rapidly by using almost all my fingers on the keyboard.

The arrangement of the keys on a computer keypad is a legacy of the typewriter, which was invented in the 1870s.

The typewriter eventually replaced messy quill pens and paper pads and greatly improved the efficiency of the businesspeople and writers who learned how to use it.

Now we are abandoning an 1870s invention to revert to text messages that we awkwardly compose with opposable thumbs.

Mark Twain used his typewriter to create long, eloquent sentences in his memoir “Life on the Mississippi,” but now humans use texting to bastardize the human language with abbreviated statements that would embarrass a Neanderthal.

“Thag no like text. LOL. :)”

Psychologists say texting can cause “infomania,” which Dictionary.com. defines as “an obsessive need to constantly check emails, social media, online news, etc.”

Because it causes individuals to “lose concentration as their minds remain fixed in an almost permanent state of readiness to react to technology,” infomania can actually cause you to temporarily lose twice as many IQ points as smoking marijuana.

When I was growing up, the telephone that hung on our kitchen wall was the source of many long conversations.

When it rang everyone in the house was excited to pick it up to chat with whomever was calling.

Now, many people prefer to not answer their mobile phones because they don’t want to be burdened by conversing with another human being.

Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco talks about how excited his family used to get 20 years ago when the doorbell rang, and how different our reaction is now.

Like Maniscalco’s family, my siblings and I loved the sound of the doorbell ringing as friends and neighbors dropped in.

Our mom would break out the coffee cake she saved for visitors. Our home took on a festive spirit as storytelling and laughter broke out.

Now what happens if someone has the gall to ring your doorbell, asks Maniscalco?

People turn off the lights, pull down the blinds and pretend they’re not home.

Before email and texting became the default modes of communicating, there were multiple opportunities to greet and converse with our fellow human beings face-to-face.

We’d cheerfully talk about the weather or sports or just “shoot the bull.” We’d use facial expressions and hand gestures to emphasize our points. The act of chatting in person was enriching.

Now the art of conversation is dying out because we’ve reduced it to a form of two-dimensional communication that only requires you to tap a dozen letters on your smartphone.

That’s a regrettable trend — or, if you prefer, nothing to “ROTFL” about.

For the text-averse, ROTFL means “roll on the floor laughing.”

 

PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

It’s patio time—but same households only

Finally! Our Covid numbers have declined to the point where the Ontario government feels safe to start the reopening of our economy. Among other things, outdoor patios can open, with up to ten people at a table. But! Not in Niagara. Last October our acting medical of health officer, Dr Hirji, enacted Section 22, which allows only members of the same household to dine together in Niagara, with exceptions if one person is the primary caregiver, or if the two people are in a relationship but living apart. The 12 mayors of Niagara unanimously asked the doctor to rescind this measure, feeling that these extra rules are confusing and unwarranted given the number of vaccinations that have been administered in the Region. The doctor refused, stating that he was not comfortable doing so until more residents received their second shots. His concerns are based on a variant from India that one shot of the vaccine provides only 30 percent protection against. So far, as of last Friday, only three confirmed cases of this variant have turned up in Niagara.

Daily new cases have declined by more than 80 percent right across the country from mid-April highs with daily deaths and hospitalizations falling by the same amount. In Niagara, our daily new cases have been continually below 40 for the past week, sometimes dropping into the teens.

On the vaccination front, 63 percent of Niagara residents have now had their first shot, with 8.4 percent being fully vaccinated. This week Canada was to receive another 5.3 million doses.

In Town news, council voted to allow the City of St. Catharines to spend $250,000 on a yet-to-be approved conservation project in Pelham aimed at protecting the Twelve Mile Creek. St. Catharines had been ordered by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to spend this amount due to some disruptive lakeshore work they are doing on Lake Ontario.

It’s great to see the roadside stands, big and small, starting to pop up in Pelham with early seasonal treats such as rhubarb, asparagus, green onions, and most everyone’s favourite, strawberries. Remember to help the local economy/farmers when you buy local.

Now, to find the little woman and go find a local patio to support!

Until next time…